Share this on Twitter Share this on Facebook Share this on LinkedIn Share this on Sina Weibo Share this on Wechat Share this on LinkedIn Illustration by Sam Ward Dick Rutan, a swashbuckling legend in the aviation community, was sitting in his office at the Mojave airport in the Southern California desert when two engineers walked in with a big idea. It was the spring of 2005, and Steven Weinzierl and Michael Fuchs had just developed a new piston engine that was both highly efficient and surprisingly quiet. While most small plane engines run on aviation gasoline — which is expensive and difficult to access — their innovative use of diesel made the engine more fuel efficient, cheaper, and longer lasting. Weinzierl and Fuchs were hoping Rutan, who piloted the first nonstop flight around the world — a nine-day feat in 1986 — would help them find funding. Rutan, who has a soft spot for aviation startups, agreed not only to find investors for them, but also to test pilot the engine himself. “It was absolutely incredible,” recalls Rutan. “It was silent. I was so excited about this thing. I thought, at long last, an Subscribe or register to read the rest. Registered users can access a limited amount of content for free.Subscribers get full access to: Exclusive longform investigative journalism, Q&As, news and analysis, and data on Chinese business elites and corporations. We publish China scoops you won't find anywhere else. A weekly curated reading list on China from David Barboza, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Shanghai correspondent for The New York Times. A daily roundup of China finance, business and economics headlines. We offer discounts for groups, institutions and students. Go to our Subscriptions page for details.